A cancer researcher, an ecologist and an optical engineer from the University of Adelaide have been named among Australia’s official Superstars of STEM for 2021-2022.
Dr Hannah Wardill, Dr Samantha Munroe and Dr Jiawen Li are among the latest cohort of brilliant women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics chosen to help promote women and girls participating in STEM.
The national program, Superstars of STEM, was developed to complement and enhance the important work being done to address the systemic barriers and historic biases that contribute to the alarming loss of women from STEM careers.
This program aims to raise the profile of 60 of Australia’s most dynamic women in science and technology, to create a national critical mass of strong, visible, relatable and public women who are role models in STEM.
The University of Adelaide’s Superstars of STEM for 2021-2022:
Dr Hannah Wardill (Adelaide Medical School) is an early career researcher dedicated to ensuring people with cancer don’t just survive, but that they survive well.
Since completing her PhD in 2016, Hannah has secured close to $1 million to develop new methods of supporting gut health in people with cancer and predicting patient responses based on the bacteria found in their gut.
Her efforts in pioneering the new field of oncogastroenterology have been widely recognised, with Hannah named the MASCC (Multinational Association for Supportive Care in Cancer) International Investigator of the Year, South Australian Young Achiever of the Year (Science and Technology) and awarded the prestigious Qiagen Microbiome Award.
Dr Samantha Munroe’s work, in the School of Biological Sciences, is dedicated to the conservation of Australian wildlife. She has worked across numerous disciplines, studying organisms as diverse as sharks, shrimps and shrubs.
At the University of Adelaide, Dr Munroe designs ecosystem observation programs for the country’s national ecological monitoring agency, the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN).
She creates advanced applications and databases behind projects such as the development of national plant trait datasets and models that predict plant distribution across the continent.
Dr Jiawen Li (Adelaide Medical School and Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing) is a highly adaptable engineer, who uses her expertise in optical engineering to build hair-sized endoscopes to explore the nooks and crannies of the body’s organs, leading to early and accurate diagnoses of various diseases.
A Heart Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr Li is an inventor on three patents, and has won numerous prestigious awards including the South Australia Women in Innovation Award, InDaily’s 40 Under 40 Award, and the Australian Optical Society Early Career Researcher Prize.
Working in the male-dominated field of engineering, she has been actively participating in media interviews and hosting interactive lab tours to increase the visibility of women in engineering and encourage more girls to study STEM.
Science & Technology Australia Chief Executive Officer Misha Schubert said the program gave women in STEM stronger skills and confidence to step into expert commentary roles in the media.
“It’s hard to be what you can’t see,” she said. “Women are still seriously under-represented in STEM leadership roles. The Superstars of STEM program sets out to smash stereotypes of what a scientist, technologist, engineer or mathematician look like – these powerful role models show girls that STEM is for them.”